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Warriors slated for busy week

Like tulips exploding from beneath the melting snow, the Ridgewater Warriors' baseball team is ready to blossom.

In a rearranged schedule, the Warriors are slated for eight games -- four doubleheaders -- today through Sunday.

None are at the Warriors' home field, which needs more time to dry out from the heavy winter, but a twin bill is scheduled for the Green Lake Diamond at Spicer on Saturday.

"We've been up there helping move some snow," said head coach Joel Barta. "It looks like it will be okay."

The Warriors play the St. John's University JV today in Collegeville and will play Minnesota West at the Worthington High School Field on Friday to open the MCAC schedule. Minnesota West is the opponent again on Saturday in a 1 p.m. on the Spicer field.

On Sunday, the Warriors are at the University of St. Thomas JV in St. Paul.

Barta makes an effort to showcase his players against four-year schools. Perhaps those schools will spot a Ridgewater player that will fill a need down the road.

"I think it's critical to display our players to good schools," he said. "We emphasize our kids are going to class and a lot of them could make the transition to strong academic programs."

So far, Barta hasn't had a player go to an MIAC school to play baseball, but catcher Shane Kampsen and pitcher Cody Conners have each signed with a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference member school for next year. Others are attracting interest, Barta added, from both NCAA Division II and NAIA colleges.

Eight starting pitchers are being groomed for the four-day grind. Each will go as far as he feels comfortable or until he's knocked out. Long-relievers are available. Barta figures he has 13 or 14 players who can throw.

Nathan Nietfeld, John Pistulka and Anthony Leaman are in the main rotation that will be pegged for division opponents, like Minnesota West.

Kampsen, a sophomore from Paynesville, is the starting catcher, but he'll also play in the outfield. Taylor Gonyea and Shane Trattles are pushing hard to be the primary backup. Sophomore catcher John Sawatzky of Willmar has had back problems and could take a medical hardship this season, Barta said.

The team has been on gym lockdown since returning from a week-long Florida trip in early March.

"Physically, we've just tried to stay sharp," he said. "We let them go home on weekends. I know they're hungry and ready to play."

The Warriors finished 2010 with a 32-12 record in Barta's second year.

Major leaguers

Barta is keeping an eye on the major league box scores this spring, especially the St. Louis Cardinals.

Daniel Descalso is a utility player for the Cardinals. Barta managed the native of Redwood City, Calif., in 2006 when he played third base for the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods League.

"We got him out of California-Davis," said Barta, who was with the Wausau team three years, the first two as an assistant coach. "He was a special talent with a passion for the game and had a professional manner about him."

Descalso, 24, first got called up late last year from Memphis and this spring won the final bench spot when former Minnesota Twins utility player Nick Punto started the season on the disabled list with a groin injury.

He has had two starts and has appeared in each of the Cardinals' first six games getting two hits in 10 at bats.

Barta watched two other former Woodchucks drafted high and make it to the big leagues, at least briefly. Both are pitchers: Lance Broadway with the White Sox and Jay Buente with the Marlins.

Barta, a native of Michigan, N.D., also managed Thunder Bay in the Northwoods League in 2009.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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